PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia is prepared to bring home its citizens in Wuhan following the outbreak of the new 2019 novel coronavirus in the city if it gets the green light from the Chinese government, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced.
He said the Malaysian government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will initiate a negotiation with the Chinese government on this matter as soon as possible.
Right now, they (Malaysian citizens) are not allowed to leave Wuhan, but we want to negotiate with the Chinese government so that the Malaysian citizens who are not sick can (be allowed to) return to Malaysia, he told a press conference after chairing the Cabinet meeting here today.
At present, there are approximately 78 Malaysian citizens in Wuhan, he said.
He said if the Chinese government gave the green light, the Malaysian citizens will be quarantined first to ensure that they are not infected by the coronavirus, before being allowed to return to their respective homes.
They will be subjected to 14 days of quarantine to make sure that they are not suffering from infection by this virus, he said.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said Malaysia also wished to send aid and assistance in the forms of food supply, face masks and gloves to Wuhan.
He said this followed a report that some of the Malaysian citizens in Wuhan now left with food supplies that will last only four days.
We are interested to help Wuhan, so if we have to send a charter flight to evacuate our citizens from Wuhan, if allowed by the Chinese government, we will also bring food, gloves and face masks because they are facing supply shortage over there, he explained.
Asked how soon Malaysians in Wuhan can be brought home, Dr Mahathir said it depends on the permission from the Chinese government.
Because Japan has taken back its people (from Wuhan) with permission from the Chinese government, he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia would continue banning the Chinese nationals from Wuhan and Hubei province from entering the country, regardless of the fact that they have or have not been infected by the virus.
If they are from Wuhan and Hubei, they will be denied entry into Malaysia, but visitors from other places will be allowed to enter, he said.
Asked whether there is a need for thermal scanner machines to be installed at departure gates, Dr Mahathir said the government only worried about people coming into Malaysia.
We want to prevent sick people from coming in, but if they going out, we don't examine them, he said.
On the condition of the seven Chinese nationals in Malaysia who were found positive with coronavirus, Dr Mahathir said so far the symptoms were not worsening.
They are still here in hospital but they have to stay for a certain number of days. So far, no worsening of symptoms, he said.
At the press conference, Dr Mahathir also expressed regret over the ban imposed on foreign tourists from visiting mosques in the country following the public concern on the threat of the novel coronavirus.
This is not a policy of the government. We don't prohibit tourists from visiting museums and mosques for fear that tourists from China may spread a disease there, he said.
The Prime Minister also rapped certain quarters who spread rumours and fake news on the coronavirus infection with ill intention to cause fear or racial tensions among the public.
Press freedom is maintained in this country but spreading fake news and telling in order to cause a problem in Malaysia will not be tolerated and we will take action against them, he said.
Source: Prime Minister's Office of Malaysia